Normally, the approaching holidays make me feel joyous, slightly stressed (money/planning), and very excited to spend time with all my family. This year I’m actually feeling quite anxious, because of a recent life change that I’ve made. In the past few months, I’ve become a vegetarian and I have only told my immediate family and friends. If you’re bold, you can always announce it via social media, but I am much more introverted. To make this situation slightly more interesting/complicated, I will be spending this Thanksgiving with my husband’s family, who mostly have no idea on my change. Here are my strategies to use during these seemingly food-centered holidays:
1)Keep it brief-I have already been doing this with my immediate family and friends. I had thought about becoming a vegetarian for awhile, I researched it a bit, and I made the change. I have my own various personal reasons for it, and I generally don’t get too specific about it. A simple “thanks but no thanks” is perfectly acceptable to response to a certain dish. I don’t like the focus on me, so being hammered with questions about the switch, is not my idea of fun. It’s natural for people to ask (especially people who have known you for a long time), and I simply say I did it for personal reasons. However much information you feel like sharing is up to you, but chances are you’re not in the mood for your husband’s Aunt Betsy’s rant on vegetarianism.
2) Keep it calm- If a family member insists on further discussing your decision; be careful to remain in calm and in control. You want the holiday to be remembered as a fun time, and not the time you got a huge fight with Aunt Betsy about your beliefs. You really don’t owe anyone an explanation, just keep trying to get the focus on something else or back to the other person. As I mentioned, some natural curiosity is to be expected, and if a family member has a genuine interest in the topic, feel free to engage as you see fit. Here’s an even better idea, offer to talk to the person 1:1 after dinner (and eating) has commenced.
3) Keep ahead of the game- This is a strategy I’m already starting to prepare. First, while I have no problem explaining my choice, I’d prefer not to do it over a Thanksgiving meal. That’s has a lot of potential to get real awkward real fast. I’ve started to reach out to family members that I know will understand or at least support my decision. I’ve also enlisted a family member that likes to “talk” to help spread the word. Hopefully, by the time the celebration happens, my eating habits will be old news. Second, I’ve already told the hostess (my MIL) not to worry about my eating choices. I will bring dishes that I know I will enjoy and hopefully others will, too. Third, I plan on being as gracious as possible. Some people can take great offense from someone abstaining from their food (no matter how amazing it looks), even if it’s for your own personal choice. This is especially tricky when it’s my husband’s family. I’ve already expressed how grateful I am for the invitation and how much I’m looking forward to the occasion. Look for other ways you can show your appreciation (other than devouring the family recipe for turkey): bring a hostess gift, compliment their decorating, and actually eat the foods that meet your needs!
It’s important to remember that while food plays an integral part of most holiday celebrations, the true focus should be on enjoying your family and their company. Look for ways to focus on that aspect (bring a board game, participate in conversations, do an activity) rather than on the food aspect. Good luck!